G. Sampath

How to protect oneself legally, logically, and semantically against a defamation suit

For some time now I’ve been meaning to write a candid, courageous, no-holds-barred article naming every name and exposing every sordid detail about a defence deal involving flying objects that shall, for the moment, remain unnamed. Please don’t think I’m spineless. In any case, when was the last time anyone saw a spine on Indian soil? 1857? It’s just that my lawyer keeps warning me that in India, speaking the truth can bankrupt you and land you in jail. Frankly, I don’t get it.

Firing defamation suits

Like you, I also keep reading in the papers about this crony capitalist whose full-time hobby is filing defamation suits. Again, I’m not naming him only because my lawyer insists that I don’t. He says I may end up attracting a ₹56,000 crore defamation suit against me and the IT guy who helped me write this column by fixing my laptop when it crashed in terror after the opening sentence.

But tell me something. If your character is truly without blemish — it has to be, in order to be eligible for defamation, since you can’t defame someone whose reputation is already faecal matter — how will binge-filing defamation suits help? In fact, if someone uses defamation suits like an AK-47 — going dhar-dhar-dhar-dhar against anyone and everyone — it would be counterproductive. This person would end up with the reputation of being a defamation maniac, which, if you ask me, is not something you’d expect from a paragon of virtue. As Shakespeare said, reliance on defamation suits provokes suspicion.

Personally, I am not a judgemental person. If you want to make money by compromising India’s defence interests, who am I to judge? As a patriotic taxpayer, I do not mind it in the least if my income tax helps a fellow Indian to pay off his debts.

But as my lawyer explained to me, with criminal defamation, the process IS the punishment. I finally understood why my favourite novel, Franz Kafka’s The Trial, is called “Der Process’ in German. Because it’s the process, stupid!

So before I speak my mind on this defence deal, I wish to protect myself legally, logically, and semantically against the faintest possibility of a defamation suit. Also, the way things are with the Mongolian judiciary (just to be clear, when I say Mongolian, I mean Mongolian), I don’t want my fate sealed in an envelope.

Terms and conditions

Therefore I’m not taking any chances. I want you to read carefully the terms and conditions under which you are consuming this column. I am grateful to my lawyer for drawing up this Agreement at such short notice and without even charging GST. Here goes:

1. This column that you are reading is a de facto Non-Defamation Agreement (NDA) between you (hereinafter referred to as ‘you’) and the column’s author (hereinafter called ‘me’).

2. All the provisions of this Agreement are effective as of the date of publication of this column or your date of birth, whichever is earlier, and shall remain in force until you and/or your reputation die(s), whichever is later.

3. Pursuant to (1) above, through the act of reading this column, you have entered into a legally binding Agreement with me, whereby you are deemed to have sworn on your mother and/or father/guardian, as applicable, that you will never, ever, either directly or through a proxy, file a defamation suit against me or any of my friends, family members, ex-girlfriend(s), or any other individual, organisation, mammal or reptile, pliable or otherwise, who claims to be, or has ever been, a journalist.

4. You acknowledge that Indian defamation laws are nonsense and that anyone who thinks of using them against anyone should pre-emptively drown himself or herself in a vat of double-toned cow urine.

5. If ever you feel an irrepressible urge to file a defamation suit, you will do so only after fulfilling two conditions: (a) Watch The Accidental Prime Minister and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha back-to-back five times without a single toilet break; (b) Sing the first 18 lines of ‘Vande Mataram’ without any mistakes and without using words like ‘Pulkistan’ and ‘Sumantra Bhusmani’.

6. You undertake to indemnify, in perpetuity, the author of this column and his progeny, both current and future ones, if any, from any damage (real or imagined) that may accrue to your reputation (real or imagined) from anything that this author may have ever written or may ever write in the future.

7. All disputes arising from this Agreement will be settled by a five-judge bench of a Kangaroo Court where the Chief Kangaroo will be myself, and the other four kangaroos will be picked by a one-member collegium headed by myself.

8. You biometrically signed this Agreement and accepted all its provisions the moment your eyes fell on the headline or any other line(s) of this column, including the defamatory lines in the visual misrepresentation of the author’s winsome visage at the top of this column

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/a-non-defamation-agreement/article26161406.ece

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